Today’s guest writer is Maggie Marton, writer and dog wrangler at Oh My Dog! She is writing about food, health and your dog’s well-being. 

“You are what you eat” takes on new meaning for our pups. We’ll bet you notice when your dog eats grass or something he’s found in the yard, his belly might react and you find yourself cleaning vomit off the carpet or diarrhea out of his bed. Just as what we eat impacts how we feel, it’s the same for our dogs. 

You may not have spent much time thinking about the bacteria in your dog’s belly, but the researchers from Oregon State University have. They studied how what your dog eats will influence her microbiome, (the bacteria-filled environment in her gut) and how it might affect her behavior. 

Just as humans may feel cranky or tired or simply out of sorts when the food we’ve eaten just isn’t sitting well in our bellies, new research published January 2019, found aggression in dogs and other behavior could be linked to “the contents of their gut.” 

Dogs rescued from a dog fighting operation, were deemed either “aggressive” or “non-aggressive” in behavior tests. The researchers also collected fecal samples then compared the makeup of the gut bacteria to the behavior and found correlations. Bottom line: The study concluded bacteria in the dogs’ stomachs were related to how aggressive they were, and–here’s the groundbreaking bit–there’s potential for figuring out how to prevent or treat aggression in dogs.

What does this mean to a pet parent? 

If you notice your dog is sluggish after he’s eaten a heavy meal, it’s a sign to, perhaps, not feed him that again. If, according to this research noted above, you notice that if you feed your dog(s) food and you notice a change in his behavior and he may begin resource guarding or be aggressive when he is normally placid and easy-going, check his diet.

Make note of various behavior issues and changes you see in your dog based on his diet. Talk with your veterinarian to see if he or she sees a connection and what recommendations there are to change the diet to change your dog’s reactions.

Pet parents want their dogs to be happy and healthy and if your dog’s gut health is out of alignment, a change in diet could be an ideal place to start to enrich his life and get him back to a state of emotional well-being.

How Does Your Dog’s Food Affect His Well-Being?

Pet parents take note!

The great news from this research is there are steps you can take, at home, to positively impact your dog’s stomach and, likely, her behavior.

This probably won’t shock anyone, but the research shows a healthy diet has a positive impact on gut health while an unhealthy one diminishes the good bacteria living in your gut. Makes sense, right?

So, how can you apply all this to your dog’s overall well-being?

Start with her dog dish!

Make sure you’re filling it with good, wholesome food (work with your vet to identify the best option for your pup). Consider supplementing with healthy-bacteria-laden supplements, like a pet-specific probiotic. And, perhaps most importantly, lay off the junk food! Sure, it’s great to treat your pet once in a while, but go for healthy options.

Here are five healthy treat options that have good bacteria you can share with your pup:

  • Yogurt
  • Asparagus
  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Oatmeal

And, use good bacteria in helpful ways! For instance, a natural remedy for a dog’s upset stomach includes yogurt. You’re adding in healthy, helpful bacteria to your dog’s stomach. Make certain the yogurt doesn’t contain aspartame. 

As research continues to emerge and we will learn more about how to treat our pet’s mental and physical well-being by treating their microbiome.

In the meantime, dog lovers rejoice: Additional data shows that pets bring a bunch of microbes into the household that keep us healthy, sparking The New York Times to ask: “Are Pets the New Probiotic?” Yet another reason it’s wonderful to be a dog parent.